A social media post by PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne – showing what has been described as “heavily armed police officers” in Crossmaglen – has led to political accusations of ‘policing of the past’.
The image on Christmas morning was tweeted from the Chief Constable’s personal twitter account and showed himself and four uniformed officers outside the station in Crossmaglen.
It stated: “On Christmas morning great to meet the team policing Crossmaglen
@PSNINMDown I take my hat off to colleagues policing such a unique part of @PoliceServiceNI Their sense of duty & optimism is inspiring. Stay safe and thank you.”
The post has led to calls for answers from Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy who said it was “reflective of the militaristic style of policing” of the past.
The Newry and Armagh Assemblyman criticised the “heavily armed” officers and also added: “In the text of the social media post the Chief Constable stated that policing in this area was ‘unique’ for the PSNI.
“This post by the Chief Constable is offensive to the local community and utterly unacceptable. It has only served to further undermine the public confidence in the PSNI within South Armagh.
“The heavily armed officers posing with the Chief Constable is reflective of the militaristic style of policing that the community in South Armagh has had to endure in recent years.
On Christmas morning great to meet the team policing Crossmaglen @PSNINMDown I take my hat off to colleagues policing such a unique part of @PoliceServiceNI Their sense of duty & optimism is inspiring. Stay safe and thank you . pic.twitter.com/2Bj4bV9d48
— Simon Byrne (@ChiefConPSNI) December 25, 2019
“This community is no different to any other, any attempt to differentiate the style of policing has not and will not be tolerated.
“As new Chief Constable, Simon Byrne should have sought to address issues which have eroded the local community’s confidence in the PSNI in South Armagh, but this escapade has shown an intention to do anything but.
“We need a new chapter for policing in South Armagh.
“We need an end to fortress police stations, heavily armed officers and poor response levels.
“We need a police service that serves the interests of this community in an efficient, effective and respectful manner.
“This community not only deserves nothing less, but will accept nothing less.”
SDLP Slieve Gullion councillor Pete Byrne says he has sought an urgent meeting with PSNI Chief Constable.
“While many families across South Armagh were waking up, opening presents and enjoying their Christmas morning, they were hurt and offended to see a Twitter post from the PSNI Chief Constable, featuring officers with heavy weaponry on show,” stated councillor Byrne.
“This isn’t an ill judged tweet, the wording appears to be a deliberate attempt to set Crossmaglen and South Armagh as a place apart.
“A lot of work has been done in recent years to build community relations with the PSNI locally. An example would be the co-operation between the PSNI and Crossmaglen Community First Responders to assist with call outs. While we all appreciate police officers and other emergency services working on Christmas Day, questions must be asked about the nature of this post. Language and images like this flies in the face of the positive work that has been achieved. “
“I have sought an urgent meeting with the Chief Constable to explain.”
Councillor Byrne added: “This will be an opportunity to discuss wider policing issues in South Armagh. There has been a worrying upsurge in the amount of burglaries in the Camlough and Bessbrook areas.
“The response locally in my opinion has been poor and done little to instil confidence in policing. I am also keen to highlight what purpose militarised barracks in Crossmaglen and Newtownhamilton now serves in 2019.”